RTIndie: Early Fest Reviews For Into the Wild, The Darjeeling Limited, and Margot at the Wedding

I'm Not There, Juno also premiere

by | September 5, 2007 | Comments

This week at RTIndie, we check out the early buzz from Telluride and Venice, where some of the fall’s most anticipated indies have premiered. And our DVD Pick of the Week is a doc that takes a closer look at the Lost Boys of Sudan.

Anticipated Indies Get Early Notices At Venice, Telluride

From the Venice and Telluride film festivals come word on some of the fall’s most buzzworthy flicks, helmed by a few of the biggest names in the indie world — Sean Penn, Wes Anderson, Todd Haynes, and Noah Baumbach, just to name a few.

Premeiring at Telluride, Penn’s Into the Wild has gotten strong reviews at the fest. The film stars Emile Hirsch in the based-on-a-true-story of a young man who abandoned his possessions for a life in the wilderness. “A story of youthful narcissism that never neglects the poignant humanity at its core, Into the Wild speaks to the yearnings and frailties in all of us,” writes Kevin Lally of Film Journal International. “Into the Wild could easily whet its audience’s wanderlust,” writes Harvey S. Karten of Compuserve.

Into The Wild

Another Telluride film with positive early buzz is Jason Reitman‘s comedy Juno, starring Ellen Page and Michael Cera in the story of a young couple who must make some tough decisions in the wake of an unplanned pregnancy. The critics are calling it a smart film that plays some difficult situations for laughs, thanks to a sharp script from Diablo Cody. “This might seem like odd material for a comedy, but trust me, Cody’s script is pure gold — expect big things in the future from this first-time screenwriter,” wrote Cinematical‘s Kim Voynar. “The way the torrents of archly amusing, vocabulary-bending dialogue trip off the tongues of the characters, you know you’re in the hands of some manner of distinctive writer,” said Variety‘s Todd McCarthy.

On the other hand, Wes Anderson’s latest, The Darjeeling Limited, has received mixed-to-negative reviews after its premiere in Venice. The film, starring Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzman, tells the story of three estranged brothers on a chaotic trip across India in search of spiritual enlightenment. It received a middling thumbs-down from Alissa Simon in Variety (“Breaking no new ground thematically, pic comes closer to The Royal Tenenbaums than The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, but without achieving the poignance of Rushmore“) and an outright pan by Ray Bennett in the Hollywood Reporter (“A third-rate Hope and Crosby picture with no big laughs and nothing to say as the completely self-involved threesome ride the rails in a circle back to their dull and uninteresting lives”).

The Darjeeling Limited

Also getting mixed notices from scribes is Anderson buddy Noah Baumbach’s latest, Margot at the Wedding, starring Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Jack Black. Margot tells the story of a pair of sisters whose relationship is tested over one’s marriage plans. “Baumbach has followed up his acclaimed 2005 breakthrough The Squid and the Whale with another wryly observed, giddily cringe-inducing, bracingly original winner,” writes Michael Rechtshaffen of the Hollywood Reporter. But, says Eugene Novikov of Film Blather, “these people are so intensely unlikable, and the film so unwilling to help them toward any sort of redemption, that Margot becomes a sour and unrewarding experience.”

Margot at the Wedding

One of Venice’s odder — and most anticipated — entries is Todd Haynes’ impressionistic, unconventional Bob Dylan biopic, I’m Not There. The film stars Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett (as Dylan!), and Richard Gere in a series of loosely-connected vignettes anchored upon Dylan’s life, music, and influence. And the scribes say it’s weird. “It’s a curiosity that could delight or turn off loyal Dylan fans and may prove too oddball to draw in younger and mainstream audiences,” the Hollywood Reporter‘s Bennett writes in a largely positive review).

Telluride ran from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1; Venice runs from Aug. 29 to Sept. 8. Wild, Margot, I’m Not There, and Juno will all be playing at the Toroto International Film Festival, which starts Thursday; check back for RT’s reports from the fest.

RTIndie DVD Pick of the Week: God Grew Tired of Us

Recently, documentary filmmakers increasingly find themselves making films to fill in the gaps left by the networks. Like Darfur, the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan was one such under-publicized atrocity that went on to inspire multiple theatrical and televised docs between 2003 and today. The first major release, Meghan Mylan and John Shenk‘s Lost Boys of Sudan went theatrical in 2004 and the second release, the star supported God Grew Tired of Us came out in the winter of 2007 and will hit DVD this month. Narrated by Nicole Kidman and produced by Brad Pitt, Dermot Mulroney, and Catherine Keener, God Grew Tired of Us follows three South Sudanese men (no longer boys) from their UN sponsored huts in Sudan’s neighboring Chad to church sponsored homes in Pittsburg and Syracuse. You don’t have to be a star to see the appeal these men wield. Directors Christopher Dillon Quinn and Tommy Walker show these men endure the culture shock of planes, prepared foods and indoor lighting with sweetness and not a bit of placation. Ultimately, the men’s homesickness and ardor to save the nation that fathered them is a foray into their stories that’s accessible no matter what country you hail from. At 91 percent on the Tomatometer, God Grew Tired of Us is certified fresh; James Greenberg of the Hollywood Reporter called it “an incredibly powerful story of renewal, commitment and the resiliency of the human spirit.”

God Grew Tired of Us

Sara Schieron contributed to this article.

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